Film

Clockwatchers


Clockwatchers (1997)
★★★ / ★★★★

On her first day as a temp in the Global Credit Association, Iris (Toni Collette) was asked to wait in a chair until someone came and assigned her what to do. She waited for two hours, not once speaking up that she was there and ready to work. While typing some letters, stentorian and hilarious Margaret (Parker Posey) introduced herself, showed the new girl around, and gave her some tips on how to appear working while on the clock. Iris was later introduced to sarcastic Paula (Lisa Kudrow) and quiet Jane (Alanna Ubach) during lunch. Despite the four having different and polarizing personalities, they got along. That is, until personal items started go missing in the office and the four became the prime suspects. Written by Jill Sprecher and Karen Sprecher, “Clockwatchers” was an effective workplace comedy because it wasn’t afraid to wrestle with details about boredom, apathy, even jealousy and paranoia. We watched the ladies form an unlikely bond which was later challenged and inevitably unspooled because of the pressures they were put under. Some pressures were light-hearted and silly but others were quite serious. It got to the point where cameras had to be installed in their floor because the perpetrator was very elusive. Although it must be kept in mind that just because Iris, Margaret, Paula, and Jane were under suspicion, it didn’t mean that one of them was the petty thief. I’ve never been a temp, but I imagined it might’ve been fun to be in their little group, from their inside jokes, the way they couldn’t help but laugh whenever they were in each other’s vicinity, and the sassy comments they whispered to one another about someone else, especially the new girl (Helen FitzGerald) hired as a permanent personal assistant. At the same time, if I wasn’t in their clique, especially if I were their superior, I probably would’ve been annoyed because it seemed like they played more than they got things done. While I enjoyed the scenes which established that the four women were able to support each other in and out of work, the script eventually focused in the fact in most jobs, essentially everyone was out for herself, especially if one was as disposable as a temp. The four women, whether they could readily admit it or not, knew their place. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have behaved as they did. And who could blame them? As the picture went on, it began to get interesting tonally. While amusing bits still transpired, a dour feeling began to seep through and threatened to take over. The director, Jill Sprecher, was skillful in allowing us to feel just like the characters. It is certainly true that an uncomfortable and unwelcoming workplace, whether the source was the environment itself or the co-workers, is so much worse than a boring one. This I’ve had experience with and I could relate to how energy-sucking it was to come in and immediately not want to be there. On the outside, you create an illusion that everything is all right. In reality, you just feel like screaming and craving for a private session with a punching bag. In my case, I continued to come in because of the money, the protagonists’ seemingly only source of motivation, and I felt that I had a responsibility for the young minds I was in charge of. The four women did not have the latter, or something of that sort, and I could only imagine how unrewarding it must’ve felt for them.

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